An underground approach to protecting power

All data center owners seek the ultimate rock-solid security. A major colocation company in Finland seems to have discovered it in solid rock—underground.

Ficolo has built a colocation center in an 8,500 square meter underground tunnel network beneath Ulvila, Finland. The deep rock caves initially were excavated by the Finnish Defense Force, but today they form the walls, floors and cavernous ceilings of nine data center halls that can be dedicated to individual customers or shared among them.

The subterranean setup offers cost savings, energy efficiency and nearly impenetrable physical security. So to protect the Ulvila data center’s power supply, Ficolo naturally chose an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system that offers the same unequalled levels of security, flexibility and low total cost of ownership.

The company installed the Conceptpower DPA 500 from ABB. This modular UPS technology uses a decentralized parallel architecture (DPA). Each module contains all the hardware and software required for it to operate on its own, with a rectifier, inverter, battery converter, static bypass switch, back-feed protection, control logic, display and mimic diagram. As many as five of these 100 KW autonomous modules can be mounted in a single frame, and up to six frames can be installed to supply a total of 3 MW of protection.

If any one of the modules requires maintenance, it can be swapped out of its frame while a previously installed spare module takes over its functions. Maintenance and repairs can be conducted offsite, with no need to switch off any systems to remove the module. Availability therefore soars sky-high—even when the system is underground.

The ability to swap out entire modules also dramatically reduces the cache of spare parts that must be kept onsite, while simplifying the upgrading of UPS systems. And maintenance costs are slashed, since the center does not need to employ service technicians with specialized skills; repairs can be handled by onsite staff or an outside service center. DPA resolves concerns over traditional centralized UPS systems that can be brought down by a single fault. The novel ABB system eliminates any single point of failure.

Moreover, the system’s modularity provides unprecedented flexibility for expanding data centers. Seppo Ihalainen, CEO of Ficolo, recently noted that new halls in his rock-lined data center can be brought online as they are needed. With the Conceptpower DPA 500 system, he says, “We also have the ability to expand our ABB modular uninterruptible power supply as needed. This scalability is vital to us so we can grow the installed UPS as the power requirements grow. And we don’t have to make a major, upfront speculative investment.”

The ABB system is perfect for colocation centers, because it allows for different architectures to be housed inside one data center with a variety of UPS backup security levels, depending on the needs of the tenant.

While some might think of the deep, hidden cave site as among the most silent on—or under—Earth, it actually is a center for nonstop conversations among UPS modules. The CPU in each of the UPS modules constantly monitors the status of its components and tells all the other modules in the frame how it is performing. Should a fault occur, all the modules come to a decision together on whether the faulty module’s load should stay on the module or be transferred to the bypass. These smart modules ensure that availability is maximized.

As befits one of the world’s most efficient data centers, the Conceptpower DPA 500 units at Ulvila offer best-in-class energy savings, providing an efficiency of up to 96 percent. With the resulting low power consumption, cooling costs can be reduced significantly. The ABB system also saves real estate costs. Its footprint is about half that of conventional UPS technology.

Ihalainen observes that “a reliable electricity supply is critical to the data center business, and having our supply backed up by ABB UPS systems is ideal.”

The Ulvila facility buries conventional thinking about data centers, and ABB’s Conceptpower DPA 500 is providing it with a solid foundation for efficient operations and future expansions.

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About the author

Elina Hermunen

I am a technology enthusiast with 10+ years of experience in the power protection industry. I have a university degree in electronics engineering and have worked with UPS solutions since 2001. After working as an R&D engineer for a few years, I wanted to get closer to customers to better understand their needs and the forces driving our business. Since then I have had different roles in product management and marketing. I joined ABB in early 2013 and currently am responsible for product management and marketing at ABB Power Protection.
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